One of the incredible things about Turkey that my wife and I discovered when we traveled there in September of 2013 was the taters. In other words, the potatoes. As both of us have Irish in our blood, discovering great taters was something of a divine encounter for us. We never thought that we would find incredible pommes de terre in such a country as Turkey. But find them, and eat them, we did.
The Secret In the Soil
Specifically, the great potatoes of Turkey are grown in the region of Cappadocia. Cappadocia is the magical, mystical region of Turkey, where the Fairy Chimneys are, where the Dervishes dance, where the world’s most beautiful horses roam, and where the people travel (when not going by horse) by way of going up, up and away in beautiful balloons. (Not really, but they do give amazing rides in them.)
Apparently, the great secret to the great taters of Cappadocia is the black volcanic soil in which they’re grown. This unique soil contains and creates air spaces within itself so that the growing things within it are insulated from extreme and sudden temperature changes. The volcanic ash can also contain significant volumes of water for longer time periods. (Cappadocia is, overall, an arid land.) This enables both soil bacteria growth and seed germination. For these reasons, Cappadocia grows not just great taters but great wine grapes and great jam-producing fruits as well. The superior potatoes of Cappadocia are grown not that far from Mount Erciyes, which is the highest stratovolcano in Central Anatolia.
The planted potatoes enjoy sunny, warm days and cool nights — a perfect circadian rhythm for the flourishing of taters. They are typically watered by snowmelt and are grown in “juicy” but also “dry” soil so that they yield a totally unique flavor and texture.
But there’s yet one more secret to these incredible taters: the use of pigeon guano for fertilizer. Indeed, one part of Cappadocia is known as the Soğanlı Valley — the Valley of the Pigeon Lofts.
American Taters with Turkish Taste
In all probability, the closest thing to Cappadocian potatoes grown in the United States are the Idaho Potatoes of that state’s Magic Valley region. These, too, are grown in volcanic soil. These, too, enjoy warm, sunny days and cool nights and are watered largely by snowmelt.
To enjoy the delight of Turkish french fries here in the United States, just get yourself some Magic Valley potatoes, slice them up to be french fries (leaving the skins on them is optional), and cook them in oil (no vegetable oils or corn oils, please!) just as you would fries. Drain them of excess oil on paper towels as you would bacon, and serve.
But here’s the important thing: you eat them with mayonnaise and ketchup. Or, just mayonnaise. (Never just ketchup, however!) And if you eat them with ketchup, that ketchup has to be all-natural: in other words, no yucky high fructose corn syrup! Heinz and Hunt’s both make HFCS-free ketchup, and I highly recommend Sir Kensington’s.
Photo credits: Zorro2212, USDA, and fritish.